It is a depressing statistic for security-conscious IT executives: one in six emails was unsolicited ‘spam’ mail in October 2002, representing a whopping 64% increase on the previous month, according to a survey by MessageLabs, the email monitoring unit of Star Technology Group. The amount of spam recorded by MessageLabs has jumped by 81% since January 2002.
Spam mail is increasingly associated with the transmission of computer viruses, says MessageLabs, and accordingly, one in 135 emails monitored by MessageLabs contained a virus, a rise of more than a third on the previous month.
The Bugbear email virus was a major contributor to the sharp spike in viruses. MessageLabs said Bugbear affected one in 87 emails at its peak in early October. Bugbear infected computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system and an unpatched version of Internet Explorer 5.5. The virus sent malicious messages – capable of stealing passwords or credit card information – to any email addresses stored on the infected computer.
However, MessageLabs found that the number of pornographic emails appears to be declining. One in 3,418 emails now contains pornography, but this is down by nearly a quarter since January 2002.